Los Angeles and flat car batteries

The drive to our hotel in LA, near to LAX airport took 4 hours. This would have been sizeable, but it flew compared to San Fran to Vegas. I was kind of glad to leave Vegas in the end. I would go another time with a bigger budget to gamble and maybe one crazier drunk night, but while our trip ticked everything I hoped for, I did find it a little over bearing and claustrophobic. It definitely had a big thumbs up on accessibility though.

Arriving at the Best Western hotel, which Srin booked while we were in San Fran, we hit the same initial problem. Yep, the shower was not a roll in. On asking at reception there was nothing they could do and blamed hotels.com for the mistake. This was a moment I am well used to and Srin agreed that with 4 days left, bed baths would suffice. Srin complained after the trip and hotels.com apologised and gave him a voucher. He suggested we use this for a weekend travel next summer, maybe to Amsterdam.

Having the usual teething problems and mass unpacking session, we were struck by something new – sun and warmth. Having been so ill before the trip and with winter in full swing back here, it was a must have for me. Overall I was apprehensive (and it came to be true) that LA was more about areas with history, than something more specific or tangible. This history was also more around entertainment, movies and TV than politics etc. However we were all tired and well travelled so I think sitting on the beach, looking at the cool views of the coast and cruising through Hollywood/Bevery Hills/Sunset Boulevard etc was perfect. Checkout some of the pictures

http://www.flickr.com/photos/martyn_sibley/sets/72157625513550662/.

The first full day we hit Malibu beach and Santa Monica Boulevard. The home of Baywatch and lyrics of Sheryl Crow, we were really living the dream. The Sunday we took a short drive up the amazing Pacific route 1 (which goes through San Fran and up to Canada). The views here were stunningly beautiful and we sat with our lunch feeling so inspired by the drive. Afterward we drove down Hollywood boulevard, but didn’t do the walk of fame because the xmas lights were being switched on in front of crowds of people. Having asked one cool copper where, we hit Hollywoods viewing platform at the Griffiths Observatory. This is where on the video I got carried away and did a cheesy martynsibley.com plug.

Monday we found Rodeo drive, Beverly Hills, Bel Air and Sunset Boulevard. We did a piece on the video for the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. I wanted a cocktail on Sunset Boulevard and knew it hit Malibu beach from a couple of days earlier. Having drove for 30 minutes around 4.45pm towards a beautiful sunset, not a bar was in sight. We found out the lively part was eastwards (the other direction) on Sunset Boulevard which was gutting. The good news was we reached the beach on our last night for this picturesque sunset and poignant moment for the trip.

We then headed toward Manhattan Beach, near to our hotel, for the last evening. One of my best times in LA was this area. One of the nights, we all had our favourite meal in an Italian/Greek restaurant there. We also found a truly American bar with sports memorabilia and a pool table. The people there were welcoming and it reminded me of a West Coast ‘cheers’ bar. I asked if Tina’s Margherita could be powered up with a little more alcohol. I thought the bar tender was mortally offended, but as I was chatting to Ted and Pete (my 60 year old mates I made through booze) the bar tender came around. Next thing he’s pouring extra shots and telling us we were cool UK/Austrian peeps. This night was also when I taught Srin he could play pool, checkout the photos of the grudge match. Tina and I vs Srin and Hugh. We drew 1-1.

Now the other almost spiritual part of the trip related to my teenage years. Please do not laugh but I was a bit of a wannabe gangster when I was 12 or so. The first album I bought was Warren G, Regulate and had to place my thumb over the ‘parental advisory’ label. Needless to say, loving my west coast rap such as Dre, Snoop etc, we had to visit Compton, Inglewood and Long Beach. We found KDAY 935 radio station for the pilgrimage to Compton on route to Manhattan Beach. Srin couldn’t believe I knew every lyric. My hairs on my arms stood up and I was buzzing. Sad but true. I was really living the dream at that point. “Westside!!!”.

On the last day I grabbed some souvenir presents for people back home, lapped up the last rays of sun, and felt a little nostalgic. I also turned my attention back to the UK and how to apply some learnings on the trip when home. At the airport we were delayed by 2 hours because of the snow back home. Security was a bit crazy, having to get touched all over and be swabbed for explosive traces, but hey its 2010 right. Tired and going through the mental preparation for flying – will they lift me ok, will my chair be ok, will my bum last the journey etc. Jack Black then comes through the doors. We all had to double take the situation.

Jack Black was amazing! I spoke to his wife, while the others chatted about movies with him. She was really cool too. Then I seized the moment and asked if I could be cheeky by filming him for my blog. He said sure and asked what it was for. I explained it was for disability and he launched into 4 takes as per the end of the trips video. I have since cut the smoothest version which is below. Amazing. He took my card and said he will look me up on Facebook, fingers crossed. I grinned the whole flight home.

On landing in snow and 0 degrees after being awake 24 hours was hard. To add to this the car broke, again. Srins dad kindly dropped us off at the Long Stay car park to save my hands getting the ‘claw’ from the cold. We threw the bags in after he headed, I hit the button and… nothing! I was pretty close to panic with no sleep, the cold and my health. Fortunately the customer service office provided warmth and an eventual jump start. I slept so well that night and realised all is well that ends well. I may at some stage look more broadly at the US vs UK for disability, but for now this ends the personal accounts of this trip, an absolutely great one too :-)